1996 was a very difficult time for Sammy Hagar. His relationship in Van Halen was strained to say the least. New management was brought in (Alex’s brother-in-law), promises were broken, David Lee Roth was singing a few new songs, and depending on who you believe Sammy was either fired or he quit.
After leaving VH Sammy quickly wanted to show the brothers what they were missing. He recruited former Montrose bandmate Denny Carmassi (drums), Jesse Harms (keys), and Jonathan Pierce (bass) for his band. He also asked a few friends to help out and the list is pretty spectacular. Slash, Matt Sorum, Huey Lewis, Bootsy Collins, Mickey Hart, Damin Johnson are a few of the guest stars on this album. He even enlists his other former Montrose bandmates Ronnie Montrose and Bill Church in a special one-off Montrose reunion song.
Little White Lie – This is the big hit single off the album. It really is a wicked song. The song starts off with some sweet percussion with a Cuban flavour then Huey Lewis blows his mouth organ for all it’s worth. The slide and dobro are sweet by Roy Rogers but the song really kicks it up a notch when Slash joins the party.
Salvation On Sand Hill – Damon Johnson from Brother Cane and Alice Cooper fame is the ace here. He co-wrote the song and his guitar work is wicked. I like the mix of hard and quiet on this one. The quieter parts remind me of a Whitesnake song.
Who Has The Right? – This ballad reminds me of a stronger 80’s ballad. Something along the lines of Sheriff, John Waite, or Damn Yankees. It has a bit of Slash like guitar work even though Slash did not play on this song. He might have been in the studio giving the thumbs up to Sammy though.
Would You Do It For Free – Whoa!!! A funk number in 1997? Who knew this could work? Bootsy Collins, that’s who. His bass work on this one is a throwback to the long lost P Funk groove. This guy is ultra cool. Like on the Snoop Dogg showing up to a house party with a bag of weed and a posse of beautiful women kind of cool. This song is pretty damn cool too.
Leaving The Warmth Of The Womb – This is the Montrose reunion of sorts that fans have been wanting since the mid 70’s. A really wicked song. It’s too bad these guys couldn’t have seen the way to do another album together.
Kama – Kama is Sammy’s daughter born in 1996. The same one that had a share in Sammy exiting Van Halen. Supposedly the VH brothers ordered Sammy to fly to California from Hawaii where he and his wife Kari were ready to deliver a baby. Kari could not fly and risk the pregnancy, and this caused a huge rift between Sammy and the bros. Matt Sorum makes his only appearance on the album here. It’s another ballad and the drumming is great, but I feel he would have shone brighter on a hard rocker. Knowing the back story of singing a song about his infant daughter makes the song that much more special though. “..To see the most perfect thing together, we’ve ever done. So what do we call this miracle we’ve made, and how can I find one word to say it. When all I’m feeling, here and now, is love. So that will always be you. Kama….” As a dad I get a little choked up over a father writing and singing a song to his daughter. I’m not crying, you’re crying.
On The Other Hand – Damon Johnson joins us again playing acoustic and slide. His slide work especially is really sweet.
Both Sides Now – One of the other singles on the album. Another great one here folks. The church choir sounding background vocals and the sweet Cuban style percussion add a great flavour to the song.
The Yogi’s So High (I’m Stoned) – I wonder if Yogi ate the wrong gummy and had to get Boo Boo to bring him down. Sammy’s guitar work is really great here. I again hear some Whitesnake. He must have been listening to Slow an’ Easy before this one. Or maybe his producer Mike Clink brought his Whitesnake past along for the ride. When a rock song mentions Ouspenski and Velokowski you know it’s not just another dumb rock song, and the guitar solo elevates it too.
Amnesty Is Granted – This song was a Van Halen cast off song written by Sammy. He offered it to Meat Loaf and he played guitar/sang backup on this song for Meat Loaf’s 1995 album Welcome To The Neighbourhood. Van Halen’s loss is Sammy and Meat Loaf’s gain I say. I am surprised that the Sammy version here is softer, and I admit I prefer the Meatloaf song a little more.
Marching To Mars – This song is about leaving earth to find life out in space. I know Sammy believes in aliens so this song is right up his wheelhouse. If this Covid keeps up maybe we can all head there.
Ether – The first of 2 Japanese bonus tracks could be a cross between Pink Floyd, Steve Vai and Dream Theater.
Wash Me Down Again – I have no idea why this didn’t make the album proper. It’s a wicked song with some sweet keys. It might be the best non-album track Sammy ever did.
I know I usually think of Montrose, Van Halen, or Chickenfoot when I think of Sammy. As far as his solo stuff, the 70’s to 1985 seems to get the most attention. Then probably the Waborita albums. However, this one is probably the most underlooked which is a real shame. If you see it in the wild, I say grab it. If you like GNR, Van Hagar, Whitesake you’ll like this album. Or even if you just like Cuban percussion, P Funk or 80’s ballads there will be something for you here. Basically something for just about anyone.